Monday, June 27, 2011

I Found My Thrill on Blueberry Hill

Or, rather, on Gore Creek Drive.

Last week I attended a conference in Vail.  One day I was able to slip away and have lunch at Sweet Basil, a restaurant I'd heard much about over the years but had never visited.  My meal was spectacular, but the true standout was the warm blueberry crostata with ricotta sherbert I had for dessert.

I've been thinking about it ever since.

So I did what any girl would do in a situation like this, when the memory of something so delightful lingers on and on.  I baked a pie.  And made ice cream.

Blueberry Pie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I was once very intimidated by making pie crust, and in the days before I found Martha Stewart's pate brisee recipe I admit I occasionally used frozen or refrigerated pie crust.  But this crust is so quick, easy and virtually foolproof there's no reason not to make it from scratch.  Trust me.

The pate brisee and pie filling are both found in The Martha Stewart Cookbook, a 1995 compilation of recipes that had previously appeared in other of her publications.  The ice cream recipe is based on the french-style vanilla ice cream recipe in The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.

The directions below assume you will make both the pie and ice cream.  I've labeled the ingredients and each series of steps to identify what you'll be working on, so you can skip around as applicable.

Pie Crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Ice Cream
1 cup skim milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream, divided
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
6 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pie Filling
3 pints (about 7 1/2 cups) fresh blueberries, washed, drained and picked over
1/3 to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon turbinado sugar

Ice Cream
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of cream and the salt.  Do not let it simmer or begin to boil.  Remove from heat and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk mixture and add the bean.  Cover and let steep for 30 minutes.

Pie Crust
Put the flour, salt and sugar into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles a course meal, about 10 seconds.

Fill a one-cup glass measuring cup with ice and add water.  With the machine running, add the water to the flour mixture one tablespoon at a time by trickling it down the side of the chute.  Add only enough water until the dough holds together without being wet and sticky.  Work quickly, and do not process the dough for more than 30 seconds.

Divide the dough in half, form each into a flat disk and wrap each half in plastic wrap.  Chill for at least 1 hour.

Ice Cream
Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer or seive over the top.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks.  Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Return the milk and egg mixture to the saucepan.

Heat the milk and egg mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly.  (Do not use a metal spoon; it'll get too hot to hold.)  Cook the mixture until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon.  Pour through the strainer to combine with the rest of the cream.  The mixture will be slightly thick and custard-like, so use your spoon to help it through the strainer.  Place bowl in an ice bath and continue stirring until the custard has cooled.  Place the vanilla bean in the custard, cover with plastic wrap, and chill thoroughly.

Pie Filling
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place the blueberries in a large bowl and sprinkle with flour, 1 cup of sugar and the butter.  (If the blueberries are small, use 1/3 cup flour; if large, use 1/2 cup.)  Gently toss so the berries are completely covered, adding a little more flour if necessary.

Pie Crust
Roll out one of the chilled dough disks to make bottom crust of pie, and put in a pie plate.  Combine the beaten egg and cream, and brush the entire pastry crust (edges and bottom).

Assemble Pie
Pour the blueberry mixture into the prepared pie crust.  Roll out the second disk of dough and cut into desired shapes.  Decoratively arrange the crust cut-outs over hte top of the fruit, covering it almost completely but allowing for some spaces for steam to escape while baking.

Brush the top with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.  Bake until done (blueberry juices have bubbled and thickened), about 50 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

Ice Cream
After putting the pie in the oven, remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.  This takes about 20-25 minutes in my Cuisinart.  Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in the freezer until the pie has cooled.

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